The primary objective of the National Academies in embarking on an engagement program has been to achieve scientific benefits for both sides and for the international community more broadly. At the same time, many American and Iranian participants and important government officials in the United States and Iran have believed that science engagement can contribute to the evolution of an improved political environment for development of less adversarial relations between the two governments.
Iran has significant science capabilities in a number of fields of regional and global interest. However, in many ways the Iranian scientific community has been isolated from the main stream of international science. The engagement activities have been designed to enable scientists from the two countries to benefit more fully than had previously been possible from cooperation in science education, research investigations, and applications of technology in areas that the two governments consider non-sensitive.
At the same time, it has not been possible to insulate U.S.-Iranian exchanges from the strained relationship that has existed between the two governments for many years. However, with two important exceptions that are discussed below, cooperation in science has been possible without excessive political or security interference in either country.
More than 500 scientists from over 80 institutions in the two countries have actively participated in engagement activities sponsored by the National Academies together with partner organizations in Iran. Hundreds of additional scientists in the two countries have met with professional colleagues from abroad during site visits. Thousands of Iranian scientists and students have witnessed, in person and via live Internet broadcasts, lectures that were delivered by American scientists in Iran.
Seventeen jointly organized workshops, usually involving about 25 participants, have been the primary mechanisms for carrying out this engagement effort. An important criterion in selecting topics for workshops has been ensuring a symmetry of interests and capabilities. Each side has been expected to bring ideas to the table so that neither side dominates discussions. The workshops can be clustered as follows.
Food-borne Diseases (2),
Effective Use of Water Resources (3),
Earthquake Science and Engineering (2),
Science, Ethics, and Appropriate Uses of Technology (2),